One of the comments to the stories discussed above is worth noting. One correspondent (hydroman from York) gossips:
Not quite in the same class as the Middleham Jewel. I once heard that this was found in Flanders but transported to Middleham to avoid difficulties with French law.Somebody called "Thundersley" replied:
I think this sort of thing happens a lot more than people like to admit.
Without venturing to judge on the Middleham Jewel case, I agree with the second comment. The truth is many objects entering the record through artefact hunting are found in completely uncontrolled circumstances - even if there are "witnesses" (for example something found when detecting with friends, or during a metal detecting rally) there is still no guarantee that the "finder" did not plant an object they had brought along for the purpose and then pretend to "find". There are of course many reasons why somebody might be motivated to do this. For example the object was found on land where they technically had no right to be, or the agreement over the splitting of proceeds of sale was less favourable to the seeker than that with another landowner. An object may be stolen (Malmsbury coin case) or fake ("Coldfeet" coin cases) or the finder may be seeking kudos - or the find may have been planted for somebody to find by his mates as a joke.
Or there may be cases, as the two commentators above are surmising of the unscrupulous utilisation of England's far too liberal antiquities protection laws to 'launder' artefacts brought into the country as a result of illegal excavation and export elsewhere and then their discovery in England 'staged' in order for the "finder" to be able to sell it openly (and thus for a better price) or receive a reward from the British public purse. There is nothing to say this was not the situation in the case of a number of objects which have commanded high prices on the British antiquities market, to what extent is the British system being utilised in this manner by unscrupulous culture criminals? Can the PAS assure the British public that this never happens, and if it were attempted, every time the FLOs/TU would detect the fraud and nip it in the bud? How many such frauds have been prevented over the past 13 years and 600 000 reported artefacts?
Whatever the answer, this is a loophole that too needs addressing when the Treasure Act is revised.
Photo Middleham Jewel (Yorkshire Museums)